Strange Embrace/69 Barrow Street

Lawrence Block. Subterranean/Hard Case Crime, $30 (336p) ISBN 978-1-59606-489-8
Early 1960s Manhattan plays host to murder, marijuana, and kinky sex parties in this striking two-pack revival of vintage pulp from MWA Grandmaster Block. Stella James, “the tigress with the biggest breasts,” rules Greenwich Village’s 69 (pun intended) Barrow Street with an iron fist, and sets her sights on a fresh young lesbian new to the building. In the companion thriller, Broadway producer Johnny Lane investigates a string of killings that haunt his new play. Under pseudonyms, the young Block kept these plots, originally packaged for the paperback sleaze market, clipping along, but today lesbianism and reefer just don’t seem quite as “forbidden”—and he wasn’t yet writing on the level of a Charles Willeford or Jim Thompson. New cover paintings by paperback cover icon Robert McGinnis highlight this deluxe edition, bound back-to-back in the style of the Ace Doubles beloved by collectors. Almost worth the price tag are new afterwords from Block, who supplies amusing anecdotes on the creation of these “lost” novels. Agent: Danny Baror, Baror International. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/19/2012
Release date: 05/01/2012
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